- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2004

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — Military aircraft drowned out the surf, gunboats cruised a historic riverfront and Secret Service agents guarded a beach road as security tightened with President Bush’s arrival for this week’s summit of world leaders.

Concrete barriers, metal fences and checkpoints were put into place around key buildings and routes in final preparations for the Group of Eight summit starting today on adjoining Sea Island.

Thousands of police officers and National Guard troops patrolled roadways and bridges.

U.S. officials have said the summit could be one of several high-profile U.S. events targeted this summer by al Qaeda terrorists.

Globalization protests, on the other hand, are likely to be mostly low-key.

“If there was going to be a terrorist, I’m sure they would have come here long before all the security arrived last week,” said Kathy Tharpe, who operates a fruit-and-vegetable stand next to St. Simons Island’s airport.

While some island residents have left for the week, Miss Tharpe plans to keep her business open unless her daily deliveries of produce are no longer allowed onto the island.

In 1999, globalization protesters set fires in the streets of Seattle, and at the 2001 G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy, police fatally shot one demonstrator and arrested 300 others.

Several protest groups planned to meet yesterday at a seaside park on St. Simons and a community college in Brunswick, both gatherings being billed as nonviolent festivals, featuring music, speakers and pamphleteering.

Police have warned that traffic will be snarled by military checkpoints throughout the area. Only those with high-level credentials were being allowed onto Sea Island, the secluded resort where the leaders will gather today through Thursday, and where President Bush arrived Sunday evening from his D-Day trip to Europe.

Somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 federal, state and local officers were on duty in Sea Island, adjoining St. Simons Island, nearby Brunswick on the mainland and 80 miles north in Savannah, where thousands of journalists were staying.

On the four-mile causeway linking Brunswick to St. Simons, the military started searching vehicles Saturday. Coast Guard boats with mounted machine guns patrolled the Savannah River between the summit’s media center on Hutchinson Island and the city’s riverfront promenade of oyster bars and T-shirt shops.

The city’s $1 billion tourism industry was taking a hit as businesses geared toward tourists saw a dramatic dip in sales.

“It’s a little off-putting for people visiting,” said Liz Demos, owner of a downtown home-furnishings store. “It’s hard to enjoy the city when there’s Humvees passing you.”

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